The time you put into meal prep can make it easy for you to eat a balanced meal, even if you get home late, you’re too tired to cook, or life throws you another curve ball — scenarios when you might otherwise be inclined to order takeout.
In fact, meal prep was tied to more meal variety, a more nutritious diet, and a healthier body weight in one large study. But prepping can get cumbersome, and you might not want to spend a few hours on a Sunday getting your weekly meals ready. That’s why we’ve streamlined your prep using ten nutritionist-approved foods to create 15 easy and healthy meals you can enjoy all week long.
This strategy saves you time in multiple ways. First, you’ll fill your cart with fewer foods, so you’ll spend less time shopping. Second, since you’re re-using the same ingredients all week long, you can repurpose your ten foods in creative ways without spending time prepping everything at once. Finally, we’ve used numerous shortcut ingredients to simplify meal prep further, such as frozen veggies, canned chickpeas, and store-bought rotisserie chicken. Since no one wants to eat the same ten foods over and over, you can use this strategy while selecting ten new foods next week. Or just make a few swaps to the original list.
Nutritionist-approved shopping list
Before you head to the store, look at the meals, assess how many eaters you have, and determine the quantity of each item you need.
- Frozen broccoli
- Frozen spinach
- Cherry tomatoes
- Romaine lettuce
- Red lentil pasta
- Rotisserie chicken
- Canned chickpeas
- Sweet potato
15 healthy meal ideas
Here are 15 informal meal ideas to try. Since there are no precise measurements, experiment with the amounts and seasonings and taste as you go. We’re assuming you have some staple ingredients, like extra virgin olive oil, condiments and spices, at home, but otherwise, each of the following healthy meals is prepared using the ten foods listed above. While each dish comes together quickly, you can save even more time by making extra red lentil pasta or roasted broccoli or whatever else you’ll be re-using over the next few days.
- Mediterranean pasta salad. Roast or sauté the frozen broccoli in extra virgin olive oil and cook the red lentil pasta according to directions. Toss the cooked broccoli and pasta with cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a dash of Italian seasoning. Combine well and serve.
- Roasted chicken dinner. Bake your sweet potatoes and once cool, discard the skin. Add a little salt and pepper and mash the sweet potatoes with a fork. Then serve with the rotisserie chicken and sauteed frozen spinach.
- Veggie omelet and sweet potato fries. Make an omelet with eggs, frozen spinach and frozen broccoli. If you want to make this easier, make an egg and veggie scramble instead. Serve your meal with sweet potato fries. To make the fries, cut the sweet potato into strips, toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake until crispy.
- Sweet potato noodles with roasted chickpeas. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and toss them in extra virgin olive oil. Season with some smoked paprika and salt, and roast until crispy. Use a spiralizer to create noodles out of the sweet potato. (As an alternative, cut the sweet potatoes into cubes and roast them.) If making noodles, sauté the sweet potato noodles in extra virgin olive oil until softened. Once cooked, remove from pan. Add frozen spinach to the pan and stir until warm. Then add back the sweet potato noodles and combine. Serve the noodle mixture with the roasted chickpeas on top. Season the dish with a drizzle of tahini.
- Salad with roasted chicken and creamy dressing. Make a salad with the romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes and top with shredded rotisserie chicken. Make a creamy dressing using the tahini, Dijon mustard and some warm water to thin the dressing.
- Turmeric chickpea salad. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and then use a fork to mash them. Mix the mashed chickpeas with mayonnaise and a sprinkle of turmeric. Scoop the mixture over a salad made with the romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes.
- Garlicky pasta with broccoli. Roast the frozen broccoli in extra virgin olive oil. Meanwhile, cook your red lentil pasta according to package directions and while that’s cooking, sauté some chopped garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Combine your cooked pasta with the roasted broccoli and drizzle with the garlicky oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Warm autumn bowl. Roast the frozen broccoli, cubed sweet potatoes and drained and rinsed chickpeas on one sheet pan, keeping each ingredient separate. Roast until the vegetables are tender and browned and the chickpeas are crispy. To serve, divide the ingredients among bowls. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with tahini. Add shredded rotisserie chicken if desired.
- Pasta with burst tomatoes and spinach. Cook the red lentil pasta according to instructions. Meanwhile, sauté the cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil with some chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Warm the frozen spinach in the microwave or on the stove and squeeze out any excess liquid. When everything is ready, combine and serve.
- Spinach and sweet potato frittata. Cut the potato into small cubes and sauté in an oven-safe skillet with extra virgin olive oil. When the potatoes are nearly brown, add the spinach. Then, pour whisked eggs into the pan and stir the mixture to combine; bake until the eggs have set. Serve with a salad made with the romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes dressed in extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
- Creamy cold noodle chicken salad. Cook the red lentil pasta according to instructions and then rinse in cold water. Meanwhile, make the dressing thin by using tahini, maple syrup, soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari) and pasta water. Combine the pasta with the sauce and mix with shredded rotisserie chicken. Scoop the pasta and chicken mixture over chopped romaine lettuce.
- Easy Greek salad. Chop the romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes and combine with shredded rotisserie chicken and drained and rinsed chickpeas. Then, season with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and Greek or Italian seasoning.
- Barbecue chicken stuffed sweet potatoes. Bake the sweet potatoes. When the sweet potatoes are nearly ready, sauté the frozen spinach in some extra virgin olive oil and chopped garlic. Shred the rotisserie chicken and toss in some lower-sugar barbecue sauce you have at home. To assemble, slice the baked sweet potato and then add a scoop of spinach and barbecue chicken.
- Cobb-style salad. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and toss them in extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until crispy. As the chickpeas are roasting, make hard-cooked eggs. Chop the romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes and combine with shredded rotisserie chicken, crispy chickpeas and hard-cooked eggs. Make a creamy dressing using the tahini, Dijon mustard, and some warm water to thin the dressing.
- Creamy tomato pasta. Cook the red lentil pasta according to instructions. Meanwhile, sauté the cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil with some chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Add the tomato mixture to the cooked pasta and coat with tahini thinned with warm pasta water. Serve with roasted frozen broccoli.
Next week, use this same strategy while selecting ten new foods or just make a few swaps to the original list. Some suggestions: mix up the veggies, choose black beans instead of chickpeas, or replace romaine with a different leafy green.